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The “In”Justice System

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  1. Judges who refuse to issue restraining orders for women whose lives are obviously in danger, or

  2. Judges who give custody of minor children to fathers who have proven, frightening records of domestic violence. Often these men have not only physically abused the mothers, but also even their children, and there is ample proof. Yet, the abusers are given full access to these children anyway.

These stories are enough to make any logical person want pull their hair out, and scream, “WHY???”

I was fortunate to experience the “justice” system in a state that is considered progressive in its dealings with domestic violence. And, I was equally fortunate that when I finally left my abuser, I could afford to hire a private attorney who specialized in domestic violence.

However, even I was shocked at some of the circumstances I was forced to accept when I went through my divorce and custody hearings. I will tell my story as an example of what often happens when abused women stand up to their abusers and say ‘NO MORE!’ The following is an excerpt from my new book, A Journey through Emotional Abuse: From Bondage to Freedom.

My first experience with the court system was very encouraging. When I realized my husband was severely emotionally abusing me, and was beginning to physically abuse me, my attorney and I decided to file for a temporary restraining order. She helped me list the abusive behaviors he had been doing to both my children and me. Then, we went to a civil court, spoke to a judge, and the judge granted me a temporary restraining order. Surprisingly, the judge even added my children onto the order!

A few days later, my husband and I (through our attorneys) decided to hire a Child and Family Investigator (CFI). This person is charged with determining the best interest of the children. My attorney agreed to use a CFI who supposedly had training in domestic violence.

I met with the CFI, who was a very sweet Christian woman. I was lulled into believing she was my friend. This was a bad mistake on my part. I told her about my insecurities as a mother, and I had not been a perfect wife. These words came back to haunt me when she made her recommendations to the Court at final orders. Another thing I wish I had done differently was put on more of a show when she came for a home visit. My kids just went about their business while I spoke to her. I heard later my husband had engaged in a “rousing game of Boggle” when she visited his apartment. This led her to conclude he was a more “hands on” parent than I was. One of my friends was given good advice. She was told to treat the visitation like a house showing, and pull out all the stops! Impress the heck out of the CFI. Also, any time you talk to ANYONE related to a court case, less is more. Keep things close to the vest. Better to have them ask more questions than for you to give too much.

Our CFI spent about a month “investigating” our case. Even though I gave her the phone numbers of many neighbors who had witnessed my husband berating our kids in the front yard when playing ball, she never called a single one of them. She said she had “prayed about it,” and decided living one week with me, and the entire next week with my husband was the best thing. I was absolutely stunned by her decision.

I could barely breathe; I was so shocked and upset. I could not believe a Christian woman would give equal parenting time to my abuser. I was horrified at the thought of my children being alone with him for a week at a time. My attorney counseled me that I could not really fight this, since any judge would take the recommendation of the CFI. I was, consequently, forced to allow this to happen. The next week, my children began moving each weekend from house to house.

Note: When searching for an expert, such as a counselor, attorney, CFI, etc. to help you through your journey, credentials and experience in domestic violence and child welfare are much more important than whether the professional is a Christian or not.

Lundy Bancroft, author of Why Does He DO That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men works to increase the rights of abused mothers and their children in the US court system. The following is taken from his website:

“Our society is currently giving mothers a powerful and crazy-making mixed message. First, it says to mothers, ‘If your children’s father is violent or abusive to you or to your children, you should leave him in order to keep your children from being exposed to his behavior.’ But then, if the mother does leave, the society many times appears to do an abrupt about-face, and say, ‘Now that you are spilt up from your abusive partner, you must expose your children to him. Only now you must send them alone with him, without you even being around anymore to keep an eye on whether they are okay.’

 

“What do we want? Do we want mothers to protect their children from abusers, or don’t we?

 

“The sad result of this double-bind is many mothers, who take entirely appropriate steps to protect their children from exposure to abuse, are being insulted by court personnel, harshly and unethically criticized, and ridiculed in custody evaluations and psychological assessments, and required to send their children into unsupervised contact or even custody with their abusive fathers. And sometimes, these rulings are coming in the face of overwhelming evidence the children have both witnessed abuse and suffered it directly, evidence that would convince any reasonable and unbiased person the children were in urgent need of protection. Family courts across the US and Canada appear to be guilty day in and day out of reckless endangerment of children.

“I wish the ‘justice system’ dispensed justice, but where it comes to child custody litigation involving abusive fathers, outcomes are mixed at best. With adequate knowledge and planning, and especially if you are among the fortunate mothers who are able to obtain competent legal representation from a lawyer who understands what abusers are like as parents, you may be able to keep your children on the path to healing. If your case goes poorly, you can still find ways to help your children feel your love and support surrounding them, and give them the strength to survive their father’s destructiveness. But regardless of the outcome you experience personally, you might want to keep the following points in mind:

“The custody system in the US and Canada is broken. You are not the only person who has experienced unhealthy and biased responses, and you are not the crazy, paranoid, vindictive person they may be painting you as.

“Other women need your help to change the system, so that protective mothers start receiving proper respect for their rights and their children’s rights.

“Many women have found when they become active in the protective parents movement, raising their voices loudly for the custody rights of mothers who have been battered or whose children have been sexually abused, their own healing leaps forward.”

I know Lundy Bancroft’s words paint a dismal picture. My own experience in the court system, and that of many women I know, is not encouraging. Lundy recommends women bond together to help each other, saying this can bring healing. I would also encourage you in the following way: If you are in an abusive relationship right now and you have children, your children are living with the abuse every day. They never escape it. Furthermore, when you stay in the abuse, you are telling your children that abuse is OK, and normal. However, when you leave the abuse, you give them the message that abuse is not OK, and not normal. You give your children a chance to see a life (yours) without abuse.

The time they spend with you will be a great contrast to the time they spend with their manipulative, abusive father. Even if at first they don’t understand what caused you to leave him, they will eventually understand this as time goes by. The time they spend with you, especially if you invest time and energy becoming emotionally healthy, will help them grow into healthy adults themselves. It will break the chain of domestic violence in the next generation. If you are currently in an abusive relationship, and would like to escape it, please see my blog on safety planning 

For anyone who feels safe to do so, I invite all my readers to share their experiences with the court system by commenting on this blog. It would help me and others to hear your stories, both good and bad. If you found a way to survive the “justice” system, we would love to be encouraged by your story. If not, please share anyway, so that others can support you. You don’t have to use your real name, and no one will see your email address.

I will continue my story of dealing with the “injustice” system next week. In the meantime, remember, Ecclesiastes 4:12 says:

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Who is this cord of three strands? You, your fellow sisters, and the Lord, who will never leave nor forsake you, (Hebrews 13:5).

Until next time,

Caroline

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Kee says:

    Domestic Violence USA page via FaceBook.

    Judges, CPS, law enforcement and attorneys are all corrupt in my daughter’s case.
    Visit the site and stay tuned. My husband is working on a mini series on this horrific case.

  2. Confidentially to Mr. R.C. I was unable to post your comment because it had inappropriate language. I am sorry you are in such a difficult situation. However, I applaud you for standing by the children. If you would like to contact me directly, please use the “Contact” button at the top of my site.

    Sincerely, Caroline

  3. Neeka says:

    The courts, judges, lawyers and all of the government together are all corrupted so bad, because they are all abusers themselves…No justice, no protection rights for women or children. Quick to judge and tell you you got what you wanted and do not understand us when we stay in these abusive situation and not able to leave. Finally all is over thank GOD, share custody but he does not care anyways anymore. So I do not even bother, until the time comes when I can do something about it…Thank you for this article, I thought I was all alone! God Bless! More women stand up, more action will be taken.

    • Thanks for your comment Neeka! I am so sorry you had such a bad experience. I have heard that male police officers are often abusers themselves, though I have no statistics for this. I am sure many just want to serve people, but there are bad people in every profession. In general, I believe there is a lack of education about domestic violence in our society as a whole, and that is a big part of the problem. As you said, people don’t understand why women stay in the relationships. Obviously, they have never experienced it themselves.

      I will continue to speak out. Check out my blog next week for more on this subject! May the Lord bless you and your child(ren).

      Caroline

  4. Mahogany Brown says:

    Recently, I received two failure to comply letters from Family Court stating that the respondent is in violation of the PFA because he has not turned in his firearms as directed by the order of the judge. I was requested to return to Family Court to file the contempt of court papers; however, once I spoke with a domestic violence advocate of Family Court, I was further advised that pretty much it would be pointless to go & file the contempt of court papers because it was simply my word against his even though let the record show the PFA states: it is so found by the EVIDENCE submitted to the court that the respondent is in possession of firearms. It is therefore ordered that the respondent has two days after he is released from the department of corrections to contact state police troop three & inform the police that he has been released from custody & that he will be coming to troop three state police to turn in all firearms in his custody.
    The court advocate made me feel as though it was pointless to even file the contempt of court papers as requested by the court so I never did so; however, after speaking with victims services, I will be going to file the paper work a/s/a/p! The justice system unjustly always makes the decision to continue to keep giving him chance after chance but, no more – because every time he violates the no contact orders & or the PFA (protective order) I am going to make it my business to make sure he is held accountable!

    • Good for you! I have heard so many stories like this, it makes me want to scream! I don’t have answers for you sadly. I am thankful you are planning to stand up for yourself even though you’ve been told it will be “pointless”. Victims have been taught not to value themselves or their safety for a long time. But, we DO have value. Sounds like you have realized this for yourself. I pray the court will finally do its job. The more (former) victims that insist on their rights, the better for everyone eventually. Bless you! Caroline

  5. Katie says:

    In the weeks before my daughter was born her father began acting very strangely–not at all the gentle caring man he’d seemed our whole relationship. He started abusing my two pets and moving my things to places I couldn’t find them. If I’d ask him where they were, he’d say I must be going crazy from the pregnancy hormones.

    His level of aggression increased but he was extremely clever: when my daughter was born, he was so involved in the delivery that the nurses declared him one of the coolest dads they’d ever seen at a delivery. He was charming and attentive in front of the medical staff but the night we got home from the hospital he disappeared for two days and then never slept in our bedroom again and didn’t speak to me. In the next few weeks he would come home from work and sneak into the house so I didn’t know he was there, then wait until the baby and I both fell asleep before taking her out of my arms and to another part of the house so that I’d wake up in a panic not knowing where she was. He threw things at me (even when I was holding our child), locked me in rooms and out of rooms, and disappeared for days on end.

    As things continued to escalate, I left out of fear for myself and my child. I filed for sole physical custody only to have the court system order my two month old daughter into his unsupervised care. I called seven lawyers before I found one that had time to take my case, so I missed a month of potential advice that would have set me on a far better path to protecting my daughter. I didn’t know that I could (and should have) reported one of the felony domestic violence situations after I was freed, or that I needed to have reported it before filing for custody (once I discovered this, the lawyer handling my case said it was too late to report it because it would look like I was trying to make him look bad).

    Even if I had known the options I’d be confronted with through the (in)justice system, it is an absurd double-edged sword: do I stay and risk increased violence and emotional abuse or do I leave and abandon my child to him. At just 5 months old my daughter was ordered by a judge to start weekend overnights with her father. I was still breastfeeding her round the clock, but to that the judge said that I could just pump.

    My child is now three years old and we’ve been in litigation her whole life. Her father has appealed the initial custody ruling (which gave him 30% custody) twice, getting increased custody each time; we’re now headed for our third trial. He has continued to be aggressive at handoffs and the only support or advice my lawyer has given me is to take a witness. In fact, my lawyer specifically told me not to call the police no matter what he does because it will look bad at the trial. (According to the two lawyers I’ve consulted about this, judges are likely to believe that women call police at handoffs to make fathers look bad).

    I wish I had known from the beginning what I know now: abuse of pets–or anything that gives you joy–is only a precursor to far worse things. Take it seriously–as if pets or your friends or your valued hobbies are your children. Don’t believe anyone who suggests that these things you love should come secondary to your relationship and that to minimize conflict it’s best to get rid of them. That is exactly what abusers want: to separate you from things you love and from the love that will support you. Someone who loves you will help you protect the relationships and activities you love; they will never try to separate you from them.

    I hope this helps other women in similar situations when it is still early enough for them to achieve a better outcome.

  6. Dear Katie,

    It breaks my heart to hear stories like yours. Sadly, your experience is not an unusual one. Cases like this happen every day, all over the country. Please check out a more recent article I’ve written entitled, “Hope for the Family Court System”. In it, I talk about some new studies recently done that can be used in custody trials. Also, I discuss protective mothers calling DV advocates as expert witnesses in these trials. I have been trained as one myself. I hope this information will be helpful to you. Blessings to you. Caroline

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